Can investment in empowering disenfranchised youth through training in arts and cultural production fuel city-wide economic growth?
The Toronto-based nonprofit, The Remix Project (TRP), promotes entrepreneurship among youth with few opportunities through training and employment in the urban arts industry.1 The Toronto City Government subsidizing the nonprofit as part of its strategy to grow the city’s music industry.2
Toronto has a booming entertainment economy: arts and culture contribute $11.3 billion yearly to the city’s GDP.3 But the city has experienced a series of music venue closures due to rent hikes.4 Additionally, entering the entertainment industry is difficult in any city. Toronto has the highest level of child poverty in Canada, with families of color twice as likely to live in poverty than white families.5 TRP aims to address all of these issues by breaking down barriers for disenfranchised youth to enter music industry.1 In 2016 The City of Toronto established the Toronto Music Strategy which recommends the creation of more physical hubs for music, and more amplified and diversified musical education programming as an engine for economic development.7
The Remix Project empowers under-served youth by giving them training and resources to enter the urban arts business and connecting them to a professional network in the field. They have a free 9-month program for students between the ages of 15-24 with curricula under three main umbrellas: recording and music composition, visual and digital arts, and arts-related business. Students attend bi-weekly classes, monthly workshops, and special guest workshops that cover diverse topics within the three umbrellas, taught by experts in the field.6; Students are trained in a major and minor. They have access to in-house recording studios in which they can produce music. They complete a thesis project and create an exit strategy for their post-program future with specific goals and plans to accomplish them.1; The organizational staff works with alumni of the program to provide continued opportunities through employment and funding for entrepreneurs. In 2014, there were 38 youth graduates, and in that year over $40,000 worth of paid contracts were generated among the alumni. TRP’s social enterprise initiative, Blackboard Marketing, provides workshops that guide students through the process of creating a business plan, marketing and branding their business, financial planning, applying for funding, and more.8 Remix’s Business Incubator program provides young entrepreneurs with the chance to learn about and apply to grants to fund their projects.
In November of 2017, Toronto’s Department of Economic and Cultural Development announced that it would invest $200,000 to move TRP into a new, permanent home-base in the Daniels Waterfront City of the Arts, a mixed-use complex that will be home to other educational and arts organizations. The new space was purchased with a combination of funds from the City and a down payment from an alumnus of the program. 6
Removing economic barriers from a career in the creative fields does not only help the individual recipients but can work toward larger citywide economic objectives. Cities don’t have to establish programs from scratch. When third sector organizations have proven track records, city governments can increase their reach and impact by investing in spaces to house them.
1. The Remix Project webpage: https://theremixproject.com/
2. Toronto Music Advisory Council. Toronto Music Strategy: Supporting and Growing the City’s Music Sector. The City of Toronto. February 2016. <https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2016/ed/bgrd/backgroundfile-90615.pdf>
3. Stolk, Jini. Toronto Arts Facts. Toronto Arts Foundation. July 2014. <http://www.torontoartsfoundation.org/tac/media/taf/Research/Toronto%20Arts%20Facts/TorontoArtsFacts.pdf>
4. McGillivray, Kate and Natasha MacDonald-Dupuis. “City of Toronto joins fight to keep music scene bumping in the face of club closures.” CBC News. April 20, 2017: <http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/toronto-music-venue-city-action-1.4076221>
5. Polanyi, Michael, Beth Wilson, Jessica Mustachi, Manolli Ekra, michael kerr. Unequal City: The Hidden Divide Among Toronto’s Children and Youth. Jointly published by Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, Social Planning Toronto, Family Service Toronto, Campaign 2000, the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, and Colour of Poverty – Colour of Change. November 2017. <https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/socialplanningtoronto/pages/1779/attachments/original/1511473048/CAST-2017-report-v12-web.pdf?1511473048>
6. Scott, Fiona. How The Remix Project Created Pathways to Employment and Entrepreneurship in Urban Music. The Remix Project. October 2016. <https://theremixproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Remix-project-report-final.pdf>
7. Peat, Don and Shane Gerand. “City of Toronto supports the creation of a waterfront music hub with new location for The Remix Project.” City of Toronto New Releases and Media Advisories. Novmber 10, 2017. <https://www.toronto.ca/home/media-room/news-releases-media-advisories/?nrkey=7271D428B0CCAE38852581D4005F49C7>
8. Pervaiz, Yasser. “Blackboard’s Entrepreneurship Training Program.” The Remix Project. July 25, 2013: <https://theremixproject.com/blackboards-entrepreneurship-training-program/>